Comeback Attempt Falls Short For No. 14 Ball State vs. No. 8 UCLA

Comeback Attempt Falls Short For No. 14 Ball State vs. No. 8 UCLA

HONOLULU, Hawaii - - In a battle between the two winningest programs in NCAA Division I-II men's volleyball history, the 14th-ranked Ball State (2-1) men's volleyball team could not complete a late-match comeback, falling 3-1 (25-22, 25-20, 23-25, 30-28) to No. 8 UCLA (4-1) Friday evening in its second match of the 17th Annual Outrigger Hotels Invitational hosted by the University of Hawai'i at the Stan Sheriff Center.

   Ball State and UCLA are the only two programs in NCAA Division I-II men's volleyball with over 1,000 all-time wins. BSU's 47-plus year record currently stands at 1,036-411-8, while UCLA's all-time record is 1205-268 in 48-plus years all under current head coach Al Scates.

   In Friday's contest, sophomore outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) led all players with a match-best 17 kills, including three straight blasts late in the third set to help the Cardinals force a fourth. Wrather also finished the match with a .179 (17-10-39) attack percentage, while adding three digs and three blocks, including the match's only solo stuff.

   Also playing a pivotal role in the third-set victory was redshirt junior outside attacker Dominic Spadavecchio (Palatine, Ill./William Fremd H.S.) who tallied back-to-back kills to end the frame. Spadavecchio finished the contest with 10 kills and added five digs, three block assists and a service ace.

   Freshman setter Graham McIlvaine (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central H.S.) led the Ball State offense to a .214 (54-29-117) rate of success in the contest, handing out a career-high 44 assists while collecting a career-best 10 digs for his first career double-double. McIlvaine also scored three blocks and a pair of kills.

   Freshman libero Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Cathedral H.S.) led all players with 13 digs, as BSU held a 40-to-27 advantage in digs for the match.  Senior middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) led the Cardinals' at the net with six blocks, while chipping in three kills.

   UCLA finished the night with a .240 (51-21-125) hitting mark, paced by Weston Dunlap's 13 kills and .812 (13-0-16) hitting mark. Tom Hastings and Alex Scattareggia tied for team-high honors with seven digs, while Thomas Amberg added a match-best seven total blocks.

   The teams battled to a 5-5 deadlock in the opening set, before two UCLA kills and a pair of aces from Gonzalo Quiroga forced an early Ball State timeout at the 9-5 mark. The Cardinals were able to battle back within two points, at 13-11, after a kill from senior outside attacker Marcus Imwalle (Maria Stein, Ohio/Marion Local H.S.), only to see the Bruins pull back ahead by six at 20-14.

   However, a pair of kills from Wrather helped BSU battle back within three at the 23-20 mark, leading to a UCLA timeout. Imwalle added another marker after the break, moving the score to 23-21. Unfortunately, the Bruins scored two of the next three points to win the frame 25-22.

   UCLA scored four of the first five points in the second game, taking control of the set early. Trailing 7-3, the Cardinals capitalized on a pair of blocks, both including Gasparovic, to cut the gap to one at 7-6.

   After the teams traded the next two points, another 4-1 run from the Bruins put the game out of reach at 12-7. Trailing 22-14, the Cardinals put together a run to draw within four at 24-20, but it was not enough as a BSU service error ended the set on the next rally.

   The teams traded the first eight points of the third game, before a UCLA service error and a kill from sophomore outside attacker Greg Herceg (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Ignatius H.S.) gave BSU a two-point edge at 6-4. The Bruins rattled off the next two points, however, and from there the teams played to a 15-15 stalemate.

   The Cardinals followed with the next two points, and maintained a two-point lead at 19-17 following another Wrather kill. Unfortunately, UCLA regained the momentum with the next three points, pulling ahead 20-19, leading to a Ball State timeout.

   Wrather came out of the break determined to rally Ball State, blasting kills on the next three plays to give BSU a 22-20 advantage. Following a UCLA timeout, the Bruins battled back with a 3-1 run tying the score once again at 23.

   After the Cardinals' second timeout, it was Spadavecchio who would step up, blasting back-to-back kills to extend the match to a fourth set.

   The Bruins looked poised to run away with the fourth set early, pulling ahead by four at the 6-2 mark. However, a pair of kills and a service ace from Herceg helped the Cardinals even the score at 11. The game of runs continued as UCLA scored six of the next seven points to force a Ball State timeout at the 17-12 mark.

   The Cardinals answered with kills from Herceg, McIlvaine and Spadavecchio to cut the gap to two and force a UCLA break. A block assist and a kill from Spadavecchio knotted the score at 17, while a BSU triple block (Gasparovic, McIlvaine and Spadavecchio) made it six-straight points for the team from Muncie.

   After UCLA tied the score at 18, two more kills and an ace from Spadavecchio helped the Cardinals pull ahead by three at the 22-19 mark. Ball State's lead remained three at 23-20, but the Bruins would rally off the next four points to reach match-point at 24-23.

   A kill from Wrather kept the Cardinals alive, while a UCLA attack error gave BSU set-point at 25-24. The Bruins scored the next two points to reach a second match-point, only to have a service error tie the score at 26. With the score tied at 28 after two more UCLA match-point attempts, kills from Quiroga and Dunlap allowed the Bruins to escape with a 30-28 fourth-game win and a 3-1 match victory.

   The Ball State men's volleyball team concludes play in the 17th Annual Outrigger Hotels Invitational with a 4 p.m. (9 p.m. EST) showdown versus No. 10 Penn State Saturday.